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Is it worth repairing a Powerbook G4?


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Old 07-11-2012, 14:22
DeelyBopper
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Hi all, I'm looking for some advice so I can decide what to do with an old laptop I've been given.

The display doesn't work. I'm seen a common problem is the ribbon connecting the main board to the lcd. A quick look online and it is possible to get refurbished cables. I don't mind tinkering and reasonably technical minded and feel that I could do this job from what I've read about doing so.

The main issue is that I have very little experience with Macs as the body of my experience is with PC's.

What I'd like to know is how it will perform if fixed. If it can be used to run basic office tasks at a reasonable speed.

Looking at the spec the model was discontinued in April 2006.

It's the 17 inch model with 1.67 GHz (fastest before model discontinued) cpu, 512mb ram, 120gb HD.

I feel it should be okay. I'd also need to know more about the OS. Would it run an updated OS? I'm not sure which version is installed on the laptop but need to factor in what I may or may not be able to run on it.

If the screen or inverter are busted then I'll write it off as beyond economical repair but the ribbon might be worth a punt.
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Old 07-11-2012, 14:34
chrisjr
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I would doubt it will run the latest Mac OS from the specs published on the Apple website

http://www.apple.com/osx/specs/

As for software you might be able to run something like LibreOffice for basic office type tasks. I doubt it would run the latest versions of the Apple or Microsoft office apps though.
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Old 07-11-2012, 14:42
Maxatoria
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Apple dropped PPC support in the 10.3 or 10.4 version of OS X i seem to remember, a ribbon and inverter shouldn't be that much (but legacy apple supplies can be nuts sometimes in prices) and don't forget you may need a few special screw drivers as apple loves to make it hard to get into their kit

it should run most tasks reasonably but when i had a look at the prices for old G3/G4 laptops a while back they were going for more than a brand new Mac Air so it may be worth fixing it just to flog it to some idiot on ebay and get something up to date
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Old 07-11-2012, 14:53
moongravy
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To get a better idea of what's up with the display, connect the PB to a monitor with a DVI (or DVI to VGA) cable. If the Mac's output appears on your monitor, there is a problem with the internal cable, the display or maybe the inverter board.

This should help you figure out if it's worth fixing. There's nothing stopping you using it with an external monitor permanently (if it works), you could even close the lid and use it with an external keyboard and mouse.

If you get no display then it is more likely to be a problem with the graphics card or logic board. Faults here would not be worth repairing due to cost.

Bear in mind it's a 6 year old laptop that wasn't super powerful when it was new. Office tasks should be bearable as will be basic web browsing. Flash & HTML5 video may drop the odd frame of two though.

The last version of OSX that this machine will run is 10.5.8 Leopard. Quite a bit of software now requires a more recent OS for their latest releases & even more will require an Intel processor.

I still have a iMac G5 that I use occasionally. For some things it's absolutely fine, but I wouldn't want it as my only machine.
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Old 07-11-2012, 19:03
s2k
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Funnily enough I've just been working on one of these (well its a G4 1.33ghz to be precise). It had a dead hard disk that needed swapping out. Easier said than done as it involves removing the palmrest and fighting with a number of stupid clips etc.

Anyway its been rebuilt now and works relatively smoothly. Its fine for MS Office (2008 is the latest version it will take as 2011 is Intel-only). The RAM can be maxed out to 2GB to improve performance and is definitely worth doing if your planning on running Leopard (which is the last OS X to support PPC)...the question will be wether you can pick the RAM up cheap enough for it to be worthwhile.

Software-wise I'd say the biggest limitations are the latest version of Flash being 10.1 so some sites might not work correctly and iTunes only goes up to 10.6 so no good if you are planning on getting an iPhone 5 at any point in the near future. Firefox is also a no-go but there is TenFourFox or even Safari is half-decent.
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Old 07-11-2012, 19:39
RobinOfLoxley
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In terms of tools, it's just a few bits.that are different from normal set of small tools.
eg Tri-Wings.

I bought these 6 months ago.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Pie.../dp/B006X3ZVU2

I now believe they are available in some Poundshops. Or at least available for 2-3 if you hunt around..
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Old 08-11-2012, 09:21
DeelyBopper
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Appreciate the replies all. I need to get it attached to a monitor (as suggested above - thanks) to see what is actually on the Hard Drive OS / Software wise.

If it works, I might see what software I need or if the what is on there will suffice. This will also give me a way of using it for a bit to see if it is fit for purpose.
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Old 22-11-2012, 15:30
DeelyBopper
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I finally got around to trying the G4 out with an external monitor. I have a spare monitor, that I used with an older PC, gathering dust so thought I'd hook it up to the Powerbook to see what happens.

I used the dvi to vga adapter from my current PC to connect the G4 to the monitor via vga cable. I have verified the adapter, cable and monitor work.

The laptop when you normally turn it on seems to boot up. You can hear the Hard Drive go and the Mac tune.

Alas when I power up with the external monitor I get the same blank/black screen that I have on the laptop monitor.

Beyond economical repair?
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Old 22-11-2012, 16:09
chrisjr
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Not tried a Powerbook but I have known Macbook Pros and Airs that can play silly b's with external monitors from time to time.

Sometimes a Macbook that has worked fine with an external monitor before can refuse to see it if you unplug the monitor and plug it back in. Doesn't matter whether that is before or after the Macbook is turned on. Going into Display Settings and clicking the Detect Displays button usually reminds it that there is a monitor attached. Bit difficult to do that if you can't see what you are doing!

Though usually if you turn the machine on with the monitor attached and powered up it does see it. If you can't get anything on the monitor after several attempts then I'm tempted to say the Powerbook is cream crackered.

Oh yes. I downloaded the manual for the G4 and I see it has an Apple branded DVI to VGA adapter. I can't really see why that should be any different to a bog standard adapter. The picture of the socket does look like a normal DVI-I socket so you'd think it would work OK.

Last edited by chrisjr : 22-11-2012 at 16:11. Reason: bit more
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Old 22-11-2012, 18:26
s2k
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Its probably knackered but if you havent done so already you could try resetting the PMU. Instructions can be found here.
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Old 22-11-2012, 20:29
DeelyBopper
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Not tried a Powerbook but I have known Macbook Pros and Airs that can play silly b's with external monitors from time to time.

Sometimes a Macbook that has worked fine with an external monitor before can refuse to see it if you unplug the monitor and plug it back in. Doesn't matter whether that is before or after the Macbook is turned on. Going into Display Settings and clicking the Detect Displays button usually reminds it that there is a monitor attached. Bit difficult to do that if you can't see what you are doing!

Though usually if you turn the machine on with the monitor attached and powered up it does see it. If you can't get anything on the monitor after several attempts then I'm tempted to say the Powerbook is cream crackered.

Oh yes. I downloaded the manual for the G4 and I see it has an Apple branded DVI to VGA adapter. I can't really see why that should be any different to a bog standard adapter. The picture of the socket does look like a normal DVI-I socket so you'd think it would work OK.
I read something about a special adapter and coming from PC's I wondered if it was clever Apple marketing or some such crap. The one I used is a bog standard one that I've used with PC's for years. Fixs the Mac slot perfectly but I have no idea what about the inner gubbings.

I'm sure someone on here can enlighten me as to whether me using a normal dvi to vga adapter is somehow to blame for not outputting the signal to the external monitor.
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Old 22-11-2012, 21:48
chrisjr
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I read something about a special adapter and coming from PC's I wondered if it was clever Apple marketing or some such crap. The one I used is a bog standard one that I've used with PC's for years. Fixs the Mac slot perfectly but I have no idea what about the inner gubbings.

I'm sure someone on here can enlighten me as to whether me using a normal dvi to vga adapter is somehow to blame for not outputting the signal to the external monitor.
DVI and VGA are international standards. And there are standards for the connector design and wiring of the pins. Apple should not really be mucking about with them.

A DVI-I socket is a hybrid with both digital and analogue signals on separate pins of the connector. All the adapter does is connect the VGA socket to the analogue pins of the DVI-I socket.

Now unless Apple are being very naughty and wiring the VGA signals to the "wrong" pins any DVI-I to VGA adapter should work equally well.
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Old 22-11-2012, 22:39
s2k
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DVI and VGA are international standards. And there are standards for the connector design and wiring of the pins. Apple should not really be mucking about with them.
Isn't SATA an international standard too? Didn't stop them mucking about with the pins on certain iMacs so you were tied into buying only Apple-approved disks.

Thinking back my Mini came with a DVI-VGA adaptor. Although I never tried a different one, it did at least look the same as any other adaptor. I'd be very surprised if it was "unique" in some way.
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Old 23-11-2012, 06:18
DeelyBopper
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Thanks all, since I don't have access to an 'official' Apple adapter and fairly confident that whatever is wrong with the laptop will be not worth any more time or the money required to fix it. I will consign it to the junk pile.
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